« ForrigeFortsett »
a word of explanation or defence. Now, with an erroneous rendering in almost undisputed possession of the ground, this is hardly sufficient. It is necessary to indicate at least the reasons that make the one interpretation right, and the other wrong. It may be stated at the outset that the words barbed and unbarbed are used both literally and figuratively for shaven and unshorn. But in this speech of Coriolanus the term cannot be interpreted in this sense, as it would then have no real meaning or relevancy at all. So far as mere personal appearance is concerned, Coriolanus had just presented himself in the most public and official manner, both in the Capitol and the Forum, before the Senate and the citizens, with the confidence of a proud nature, and the indifference to mere pouncet-boxes and curling-irons proper to a soldier and a hero. There could thus be no possible reason against his returning on the ground of mere personal appearance. If he really were somewhat rough and unkempt, he would surely, under the circumstances, be the better pleased. 'Least of all would he think of calling in the barber before presenting himself again to the greasy multitude. The speech obviously refers, not to mere personal appearance, but to the accustomed and accredited signs of deference, humility, and respect. One of these—and that the most eloquently submissive-was uncovering, standing bare-headed, and bowing in a lowly manner to the assembled citizens. This the proud spirit of Coriolanus could not stomach, and he had the greatest difficulty in forcing his stubborn will into even momentary and simulated acquiescence. This was the bitterest element in the partial and mocking ceremony of submission to the citizens he had just gone through. When urged by his friends to speak to the citizens and ask their suffrages, according to established usage, he replies :
"I do beseech you,
That I may pass this doing.' Here stand naked' cannot, of course, be literally taken, though it might be supposed to refer indirectly to showing his wounds. This, however, Coriolanus did not do, and the phrase must be understood as referring primarily to the fact that he was obliged to stand uncovered, bare-headed, before the ' bisson mul“titude.' But his gall so rises at the degradation, that while going through the form he cannot help flouting the citizens to their face:
• Third Cit. You have been a scourge to her enemies, you have been a rod to her friends; you have not, indeed, loved the common people.'
Cor. You should account me the more virtuous, that I have not been common in my love. I will, sir, flatter my sworn brother, the people, to earn a dearer estimation of them ; 'tis a condition they account gentle : and since the wisdom of their choice is rather to have my hat than my heart, I will practise the insinuating nod.'
Again, Volumnia, well knowing what the chief difficulty was, addresses herself most earnestly to this point, détailing to her son in eager gestures the submissive actions by which he must at once seek to regain the popular favour :
• Vol. I prithee now, my son,
As thou hast power and person.' In this excited and intensely dramatic address we sce Volumnia pointing to her son's bonnet, and showing by her own action the way in which he should use it in addressing the citizens. At last, in reply to the reiterated and united entreaties of mother and friends, Coriolanus impatiently exclaims :
'Must I go show them my unbarb'd sconce ?' It may be easily shown that unbarbed has the meaning which the context thus requires. A war-horse protected by head and chest-pieces of defensive armour was technically said to be barbed, barded, or bard, these being all different forms of the same word derived from the French bardé, which Cotgrave renders · barbed * or trapped as a great horse.' Thus Holland, in his translation of Xenophon's Cyropædia,' says: “Now were they all that at
tended upon Cyrus armed as he was, to wit, in purple tabards, corslets, and head-pieces of brasse, with white crests and with swords: every man also with a javelin of corneil wood. Their • horses were bard, with frontlets, poictrels, and side-pieces of • brasse.' In other words, the horses were protected by headpieces, breast-pieces, or plates, and side-pieces of defensive
armour. The terms barb and barbed, used in the same way for horse armour, occur continually in Harrington's translation of Ariosto, in Spenser, and generally in the chivalrous poetry of Shakspeare's time, as well as occasionally in his own dramas. But as the war-horse was rarely in this sense fully barbed, the metallic armour largely increasing the weight to be carried, the term barb came to be specially associated with the frontlet, or head-piece, which few war-steeds were without. In this way it was also applied, in a secondary sense, to any covering or protection for the head, to a cap or hood, a helmet or bonnet of almost any description. Thus Chaucer uses barbe for a whimple, or a hood and cape covering the head and shoulders ; while Skelton applies the same term to a nun's hood, and also to the cap which covered the hawk's head when carried on the fist to the field before being unhooded at the game. It is, however, more to our present purpose to note that a special form of the word was a well-known term in mediæval times for a military cap, or defensive covering for the head. Thus Ducange gives · Barbuta, —• Tegminis species qua caput tege• bant milites seu equites in præliis.' And Sir S. R. Meyrick quotes in illustration of barbuta in this sense from Hoscemius, erant omnes armati cum barbutis in capite ;' and from Villani,
I tutti armati di corazze e barbute, come cavalieri.' After giving these examples Sir S. R. Meyrick adds a sentence which is tolerably decisive as to the real meaning of the term in Shakspeare's phrase: “The French call knights thus ' armed barbües, and the English barbed.' To show an unbarbed sconce is thus to show an uncovered, unprotected sconce; in other words, to appear bareheaded.
That the word in this connexion cannot possibly refer to shaving is evident, from the fact that sconce means head, and is never applied to the face by Shakspeare or his contemporaries. Of the seven places in which the word occurs in his dramas four are in the • Comedy of Errors,' where sconce is played upon in a humorous scene between Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse. In the second scene of the first act it is synonymous with 'pate;' while in the second scene of the second act it is freely punned upon by Dromio after the manner so common with Shakspeare's fools, servants, and clowns:
Ant. S. If you will jest with me, know my aspect,
Or I will beat this method on your sconce. Dro. S. Sconce call you it ? so you would leave battering, I had rather have it a head : an you use these blows long, I must get a sconce
for my head, and ensconce it too; or else I shall seek my wit in my shoulders. But, I pray, sir, why am I beaten ?'
If our interpretation is correct, the word sconce is here used in three different senses : first, for head; second, for a rounded fort or blockhouse; and third, for what protects or covers the head, a cap or hood. This last sense has not been recognised by the commentators, who have interpreted I must get me a
sconce for my head' in the sense of fortification. But sconce having also the meaning of covering for the head, it is more likely that in playing on the word Dromio would use it in a different sense than that he would repeat it immediately in the same signification. The glossarists do not seem to be aware that sconce has this secondary meaning of covering for the head. But that it was really so used is apparent from the following entry in Florio's Dictionary: ‘Capuccio, a little round hood,
or skonce, a cap, also a hood or a cowl, a friar's bonnet.' The various significations of sconce are thus all connected with the central notion of head. It is never applied to the face; and apart from the necessities of the context, the shaving or unshorn interpretation of the phrase is inadmissible.
Here we must close, having only partially accomplished the task proposed at the outset. Something, however, has been done. Several of the explanations we have offered vindicate on grounds of definite evidence the text of the First Folio, and we are confident there is still a good deal more to be done in the same direction. We shall hope, therefore, to find some other opportunity of returning to a subject of inexhaustible interest to the genuine lovers of literature.
ART. III.—Denkwürdigkeiten aus den Papieren des Freiherrn
Christian v. Stockmar. Zusammengestellt von ERNST FREIHERR V. STOCKMAR. Braunschweig: 1872. This volume is a publication as singular and interesting as
the life of the remarkable individual which it i elates. In itself the existence of Baron Stockmar was uneventful and even obscure. One of his friends described him as an 'anony'mous and subterranean 'being. But it was his fortune to attain to the closest intimacy with persons of the most illustrious position and the highest influence. He was rewarded by their unbounded confidence and affection for the zeal and unselfishness with which he devoted himself to their service. He neither sought nor obtained any of the common rewards which are bestowed on those who share the exercise of supreme power, for he was without greed and without ambition. His exertions, directed as they generally were to great and laudable objects, did not even confer upon him fame; for it was of the essence of his service that it should remain secret and concealed. His life, in short, can hardly be more accurately described than in the following passage from one of his own letters :
The singularity of my position compelled me always anxiously to efface my best efforts and attainments, and to conceal them as if they were crimes. Like a thief in the night often have I laid my seed-corn in the ground, and if the plant grew and was seen of men, I knew I must ascribe the merit to others, and I did it. Oftentimes even now I am told of this or that thing, and how this or that has come to pass, by men who are so far in the right that they have seen these things in the second stage of their production. But these good people know nothing of the first stage. The growth of a plant requires air, light, and warmth, &c. And so it might seem to these different elements that without the influence of each of them there would be no plant at all. But the first and chief merit clearly belongs to him who of his own motion, and solely for the eventual advantage of others, has laid the seed-corn at the right time in the right soil. If then circumstances and men commonly combine so to cast the shade of night and darkness over my best conceptions, ideas, and undertakings, that not the faintest suspicion of their original promoter is possible, that result will scarcely annoy me.' (P. 58.)
So much of the business of the world is carried on with a noise and pretension far above its real worth, and men are so ready to claim the glory of the harvest when others have sown the furrow, that it is curious to meet with an example of this self-denying activity, and to trace the influence of a man who